Division 1 Coaches Share Their Top Tips

8 Tips From Division 1 Coaches - Girls LacrosseHQ

8 Tips From Division 1 Coaches – Girls LacrosseHQ

Looking to play lacrosse in college?

Maybe you have a friend or family member you want to help reach the highest level in the sport, or perhaps you didn’t make the team but haven’t given up hope.

Eight Division I coaches shared their top tips with Girls Lacrosse HQ to help young recruits reach the next level.

The common consensus? Be a well-rounded athlete before you become an expert in lacrosse.

Each coach had her own take on this necessary trait of a top-level lacrosse player, but they all presented a unique strategy on how to develop it.

With these tips in your arsenal, you might think twice about specialty camps, high-end training, year-round leagues and intense club-level play as a pathway to playing lacrosse in college.

Cindy Timchal – Navy Head Coach

Cindy Timchal - Navy Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Cindy Timchal – Navy Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

The key is to get the kids to love the sport early.  Coach Timchal also loves to observe other sports to see how they are accomplishing this and feels like the sport of Girls Youth Lacrosse can really learn from other sports like Soccer and Tennis.  These two sports have spent a considerable amount of time drastically changing the game play at younger levels by altering equipment and field size.
She feels there is a real gap in the equipment in Girls Youth Lacrosse.  “We as coaches need to get better at adapting the youth game for the younger smaller player.  We put large bulky equipment on a small girl and expect her to move in the same way as those at the older levels. ”

Chris Sailer – Princeton University Head Coach

Chris Sailer - Princeton Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Chris Sailer – Princeton Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

“My tip is for girls to continue to play other sports throughout high school, not just lacrosse, so they can develop their overall athleticism and game awareness, build transferable skills while minimizing injury risk from over specialization, get exposure to different coaching styles and approaches, and experience different roles as they play on different teams.  As a coach, I want to recruit the most athletic and smartest players I can, and I’ve seen over the years the very real advantage that multi-sport players have when they get to the college level.   Besides that, I would encourage girls to watch as much high level lacrosse as possible and try to emulate some of the moves and stick work they see. “

Cathy Swezey – Vanderbilt University Head Coach

Cathy Swezey - Vanderbilt Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Cathy Swezey – Vanderbilt Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

Vanderbilt Coach Cathy Swezey feels as though there is too much early specialization at the youth level.  Girls are playing lacrosse all year long missing out on the opportunity to play different sports to hone their athletic skills.  Coach Swezey would rather see a player in her program who may be lacking in lacrosse specific skills but is a well-rounded athlete.  Further, she feels that specialization in just lacrosse tends to lead to more injuries because players are not moving their bodies in enough of a variety of muscle movements.   Playing the same sport all the time leads to overuse injuries.

Sarah Albrecht – University of New Hampshire Head Coach

Sarah Albrecht - University of New Hampshire Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Sarah Albrecht – University of New Hampshire Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

“The top tip for girls lacrosse players trying to get to the next level of play is to learn as much as you can.  Go to camps, clinics, and don’t be afraid to try things, fail, and try them again.  Every great player has learned to make failure a positive experience by learning and making that skill better.  Never shy away from a challenge.  A player, no matter how good, can always get better.”

Jenny Graap – Cornell University Head Coach

Jenny Graap - Cornell Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Jenny Graap – Cornell Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

Compete in as many sports as possible because variety produces a well-rounded athlete. A byproduct of playing several different sports is the excitement and anticipation of lacrosse season. Multi-sport athletes are learning how to compete from a variety of coaches, in different arenas, courts, fields, pools, rinks, and gyms. Nurturing the competitive spirit and developing a winning attitude in an athlete is essential. At the collegiate level, coaches can train fitness and X’s and O’s, but the best lacrosse players already have an intense passion for competing. Where there’s a will there’s a way and real competitors won’t rest until they find a way to WIN!

Coach Graap points out that participating in organized sports does not guarantee that an athlete will be a great competitor. “I think individuals can learn tactics, hone strategies and develop competitive instincts by playing board games, card games or backyard games with their families. If it’s a game, competitors want to win, and they hate to lose!”

Lisa Miller – Harvard University Head Coach

Lisa Miller - Harvard Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Lisa Miller – Harvard Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

Coach Miller’s top tip for getting to the top levels in the game is simply to play.  By “play” she means the truest sense of the word.  “Go out and play catch, start a pickup game and overall have fun.”

Why is this so important? Because it trains what Coach Miller points out is the most important intangible skill that a player can obtain and that is known as sports IQ.  When youth players are fed too much structure, they are not pushed to increase their sports intelligence.

Additionally, when children are left to come up with the rules of the particular game that they are playing, they are developing valuable leadership skills.

When young players are provided more unstructured play surrounding the game of lacrosse, they are more likely to nurture this critical skill that is essential to competing at the highest levels.

Laura Brand – Rutgers University Head Coach

Laura Brand - Rutgers Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Laura Brand – Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

“Have realistic expectations and dedication to improving your skillset.”  When Coach Brand talks about skillset, she is not just talking about your stick skills but your quickness, physicality and ability to be explosive on the field.  She also points out that it is important for you to develop your Lacrosse IQ.  How?  Coach Brand says that with all of the lacrosse games that you can now see on TV and the internet that you can really find out what the college level entails.

As far as keeping those realistic expectations when trying to get to the next level, “use the resources around you” says Coach Brand; “reach out to your high school or club coach and ask them to help you assess your level of play and where you can best fit at the college level.  Division I might not be in your future, so it is best to have a more realistic expectation of where you belong and focus on getting there. “This is about allowing the student athlete to have the best possible experience and giving them the best opportunity to be successful.”

Julie Myers – University of Virginia Head Coach

Julie Myers - Virginia Women's Lacrosse Head Coach

Julie Myers – Virginia Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach

“Do all the little things you can do ON YOUR OWN before practice begins…fitness, stick work, footwork and keeping it all fun but challenging.  I truly believe in the multi-sport athlete.  Having different teammates and coaches, working on different skills and using different muscles while competing is the best (and most fun) way to gain experience and to get better on every field.  The more fun you have playing, the more often you’ll play so find ways to make it fun and keep it going.”

Combine all these tips and you have a blueprint to reach the next level. Remember, what these Division I coaches look for doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. Focus more on non-lacrosse skills before mailing your recruiting letters.

An ancient Buddhist proverb once sad, “You are like this cup. You are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”

Student-athletes seeking knowledge on how to reach the next level should be open to receiving it. Empty your cup and apply these tips as you strive to become a well-rounded athlete.

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